After a year of turning Audi's Q3, Q3 Sportback, Q5, and Q8 crossovers into bawdy cannonballers, the Ingolstadt automaker's go-fast RS department has embarked on plug-in hybrid and electric programs. Autocar reports that among the first battery-electric fruit will be the RS E-Tron GT, the top step of a trim program that also includes standard and S versions. Audi's used the L.A. Auto Show as the U.S. stage for electric ambitions, meaning it's possible we'll see the production version of the electric sedan in entry-level guise on the West Coast in November 2020. The magazine says the RS version should come sometime in 2021.
A three-stage lineup would give the E-Tron GT a similar trim walk to its sister car, the Porsche Taycan. However, Autocar predicts Audi pricing and power levels will fall in line behind the Porsche at every step. The concept E-Tron GT revealed at the 2018 L.A. Auto Show produced 582 horsepower and roughly 600 pound-feet of torque. If the prediction is correct, an entry-level model is looking at an output under the 429 hp and 472 lb-ft in the Taycan 4S with the base battery, or 482 hp and 479 lb-ft with the larger battery. At the upper end, the Taycan Turbo S sets the bright line at 750 hp and 774 lb-ft.
Audi's head of exterior design said his team is already thinking about what an RS version of the just-revealed E-Tron Sportback would entail, a potential competitor to a Tesla Model Y Performance model. Under the skin, there have apparently been hints that a third motor is under consideration for an extra dose of power and even finer torque vectoring on the rear axle.
Also on the docket for electrified RS products, the potential return of a battery-electric R8 at some point. Audi's made two effectively abortive attempts with a BEV flagship sports car, the 2012 first-gen R8 E-Tron that didn't reach the market, and the second-generation 2016 R8 E-Tron that made it to market with no advertising, a dealer-referral sales model, no dealer stock, and a price tag exceeding $1 million. Bosses pulled the plug with around 100 sold, this year's ruminations on the fate of the R8 with any powertrain leading to surmises that an electric version might come in 2022 as the E-Tron GTR. Given earnest vigor and support, a third try could deliver the intriguing electric coupe we've been teased with for eight years. Given where EVs have gone since 2016, we'd expect a new electric R8 to outdo the last effort's 456 hp and 679 lb-ft.
Meanwhile, the next-generation RS4 is said to be headed down the PHEV route, and is in development. Once that happens, and the next-gen Mercedes-AMG C63 switches to a four-cylinder PHEV, the imminent BMW M3 will stand alone among the monster compact sedans – assuming the trunked RS4 returns – offering a traditional powertrain, a manual transmission, and rear-wheel drive.